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Local Dems make Afghanistan 2012 caucus issue

BY LINDSAY DOUGLAS | JUNE 28, 2011 7:20 AM

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Organizers in Iowa City are frustrated at President Obama’s war record and are organizing caucus delegates to push for a quicker end to the war in Afghanistan.

With the group Health Care Not Warfare, University of Iowa history Professor Jeff Cox is spearheading that movement by recruiting volunteers to act as precinct coordinators who will attend 2012 Iowa caucuses and persuade uncommitted delegates to stand up for national health-care insurance and peace in Afghanistan.

Cox said he is not particularly committed to anyone but said Obama has been promising to get troops out of Afghanistan since he’s been in office, and it hasn’t happened.

“One more death is one unnecessary death,” said Cox.

He said the money-less and staff-less campaign is one of two in Iowa that will be devoted to providing an alternative to a renomination of Obama. The group plans to hold monthly meetings until the caucuses to ensure their success. The other group is focused on corporate money, family farming, and environmental issues but hasn’t decided on a name.

“Everybody knows he’s going to be re-elected,” Cox said. “The real alternative is to give people the opportunity to talk about the direction of our country.”

Attendees at Monday’s meeting agreed.

“If you’re a loyal Democrat with a big ‘D’ who doesn’t want to undercut Obama, or a democrat with a small ‘D’ who’s just pissed, you can do this,” said Ed Flaherty, an Iowa City resident with Veterans for Peace who attended the meeting.

More specifically, Cox said, the uncommitted delegates will be committed to the passage of health-care coverage for all Americans during the next president’s term in office, as well as the withdrawal of all American forces from Afghanistan within the first year of the next president’s term in office — as opposed to Obama’s plan of complete withdrawal by 2014.

And though one expert said caucus campaigns such as Health Care Not Warfare are common when there is an incumbent candidate and may draw attention to specific hot topic issues, he noted that they rarely have a large effect on the caucuses.

“It would be difficult to express opposition to Obama,” said David Redlawsk, an Iowa caucus expert and political-science professor at Rutgers University. “The uncommitted delegates have to have more than 15 percent of the caucus, and it can be hard when you need 15 percent to do anything.”

Redlawsk noted that a similar campaign was formed in 1996 during former President Bill Clinton’s re-election campaign, but it didn’t have an effect on the caucus process. He said such a campaign likely wouldn’t have an effect statewide.

Cox attributed the failure of such a group during Clinton’s re-election to a lack of communication and press attention, and he knows the group will not produce a candidate who can defeat Obama in the nomination process. Instead, he wants the group’s voice to be heard.

“The second-best speech Martin Luther King ever gave was called ‘A Time to Break the Silence,’ ” Cox said. “King said sometimes you just have to speak out no matter what loyalty you have to the president. I feel the same way — we just can’t follow this path anymore.”


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